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Season 1 of 'Joe Millionaire'
Everett Collection

The premise of Joe Millionaire at first sounds a lot like The Bachelor. Premiering just a year after the latter, the first season of the series followed the antics of a group of women all vying for the heart of one man. The twist? The women were told that the inaugural star, Evan Marriott, was an heir to millions, while, in actuality, Marriott was a construction worker earning less than $20,000 a year. As the women competed for his affection, Marriott had to assess whether they wanted to be with him for his fake riches or if they genuinely felt a connection. As he grappled with intentionally lying to these women and sussing out their intentions, the series inspired questions about why we’re so drawn to shows that perpetuate romantic ideals and gender norms. Joe Millionaire offered refreshing commentary on the reality dating show landscape, and viewers ate it up: more than 40 million people tuned into the finale of the first season. Years later, as a reboot of the show aired in 2022, many were rightfully critical of a series that is based on deception. But Joe Millionaire still offers a fascinating look at the intersection of wealth, romance, and intention. —Annabel Gutterman

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